Holy Cross Professor Receives Prestigious Book Award for Study of Religion, Motherhood, and Poverty

December 4th, 2012 by David Cotrone ’13

Susan Crawford Sullivan, assistant professor of sociology and an Edward Bennett Williams Fellow at the College of the Holy Cross, recently received the 2012 Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) for her book, “Living Faith: Everyday Religion and Mothers in Poverty” (University of Chicago Press, 2011). The SSSR stimulates, promotes, and communicates social scientific research about religious institutions and experiences; it encompasses a variety of disciplines including sociology, religious studies, psychology, political science, economics, gender studies, and others.  Its prestigious book award recognizes the most outstanding book published in the last two years.

“To have my book recognized across such an array of disciplines means a lot to me,” says Sullivan, reflecting on her receipt of one of the highest national recognitions of scholarship in her field. “It’s quite humbling.”

“Living Faith,” which looks at the role of religion in the lives of urban mothers in poverty, was also awarded the Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s section on Sociology of Religion this past summer. “I was interested in two main questions,” says Sullivan, explaining the motivations behind her work, “understanding how the women I studied drew on religious interpretations in contending with the challenges in their lives around work and welfare, parenting, and making meaning of difficult circumstances, as well as understanding their distance from organized religion despite often-high levels of personal religious faith.” Sullivan was able to investigate this material by conducting interviews with women in various social service programs, such as shelters and job training programs, as well as with urban pastors.

The book explores broader questions of interaction between churches and the urban poor. “Doing this research made me think about the importance of people seeing the very poor as common members of one human family,” she says. “I hope that this book will help religious leaders and organizations, policymakers, community members, and others to walk with mothers in poverty in working towards a fuller human community and a more just society.” Sullivan is donating part of the proceeds of her book to organizations which assist women in poverty.

Interested in religion, poverty and public policy, and the family, Sullivan received her M.P.A. in public affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1996 and her Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University in 2005. From 2009-10, she was a visiting assistant professor and research associate at Harvard Divinity School. At Holy Cross, she teaches courses including “Sociology of Religion,” “Catholic Thought and Social Action,” “Women, Religion, and Poverty,” “Families and Societies,” and “The Sociological Perspective.”

For additional information, please contact Cristal Steuer at 508-793-2419.

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